I think Bungie has found something good with the idea of the seasonal model, but they're still a long way from refining it. It has long been a complaint about this series that each expansion villain never feels fully utilized and killing them off in the 3-5 story missions we would get in the old DLCs felt very anticlimactic. This really came to a head with Warmind and how we killed a Worm God within hours of downloading the expansion, and the lack of real repercussions or effect it had on the world.
Forsaken and the Dreaming City really did this well. Unveiling the plot and the changing world over the course of 3+ weeks felt amazing. It felt like the story was unfolding in real time, as opposed to dumping all of it on us in a couple hours. Imagine if, during Warmind, the fight with Xol had been built up over the course of the DLC? Even if the fight itself wasn't that great, it would have felt like Xol would have had the lore and story impact expected of one of the Hive's patron gods.
And Bungie's idea of seasons feeding into one another from this year pushed this concept even further. The idea is to make the world feel like a single, evolving story, where the actions of one group or story directly influence the actions of another. I do not believe Bungie has achieved this with this season, but I do believe the proof of concept is solid.
The model of "large September expansion with smaller subsequent stories" is great. September should bring large-scale world and gameplay changes, which are then expanded upon and experimented with over the course of the year's seasons. The expansion's narrative should span the whole year, watching the fallout of the main story and how the rest of the universe reacts to it.
I firmly believe this year's seasons should have been the follow-up to D2Y1. We have done almost nothing but focus on the Red Legion and their power struggles and attempts to remain relevant, which is what should have happened immediately following their defeat.
Imagine if, rather than the vanilla campaign ending in Ghaul's death, that it instead just ended in his defeat and us reclaiming the City. Ghaul could be built up as the main villain, orchestrating the rest of the season's plots. Dispatching a team of Psions to Mercury, discovering the Infinite Forest and Sundial and trying to use them to undo the vanilla campaign. Us allying with Osiris to fight them off. The Cabal accidentally freeing the Hive on Mars, us having to take the whole season off to stop Xol. The Cabal using that time to regroup and devise their last-ditch attempt to throw the Almighty at us, culminating in Ghaul's ultimate defeat and the Almighty's destruction. The Red Legion menace is completely thrashed.
Bungie already took a stab at this idea with the Leviathan; a single raid space that evolved and expanded with the story. As the seasons rolled and the DLCs dropped, we explored more of the Leviathan and furthered its narrative. While the whole Leviathan storyline was a bit too divorced from the Y1 DLCs, I don't think the concept was too far off the mark.
Take Garden of Salvation. That raid didn't even have a real ending. We broke into the Black Garden because the Vex were invading and the signal from the Darkness's relic was reacting with something there. We fought through some ancient Minds in the Garden until we found a Darkness statue, and then just… left?
Imagine if, each season, we got a small raid lair in the Garden, venturing a little further. Or 1-2 encounters were added beyond the "final" boss. It wouldn't even have to be one lair per season, just two lairs over the course of the year would go a long way. And all of it could culminate in the finale of that year's storyline, and pave the way for whatever would happen next.
Just imagine it. Year 1 is the Cabal invasion, and vanilla ends with us kicking Ghaul out of the tower but he escapes. We spend the year squashing their attempts at rallying, following them to Mercury and Mars and the Almighty. After vanilla ends, Cayde begins partnering up with Petra to imprison the Red Legion and bring some order back to the galaxy. The year ends as we kill Ghaul and finally crush the Red Legion.
But uh-oh. All those people Cayde had been locking away? They broke out, and killed him. We go on a murderous, revenge-fueled rampage and track down Uldren in the Dreaming City, where we are introduced to the curse. We spend the year reaching out, searching for anything that can help with the curse; the Drifter and his knowledge of the Darkness, Calus and his mysterious power. All the while, we get meetings with Mara in 3-week intervals. We grow increasingly frustrated by her apparent apathy to her people's plight, and in the climax of the season, we find out why: The Pyramids are coming. Luckily, Eris is back and has found one on the Moon.
Taking year-long arcs would make the world feel so much more connected, fluid, and fleshed-out. Bungie has tried cramming a lot of storylines into different expansions and never really takes the time to satisfyingly resolve any. Look at Forsaken: The Scorn should have been a larger threat (Fallen using the power of Darkness? Uh, hello?), but were just B-list villains to the main plot. The whole "revenge for Cayde" thing was cast aside in 2 story missions and a handful of adventures, not giving us enough time to get emotionally invested in hating all of the Barons, or even bringing up their past with Cayde at all. All of it was sped through to get to the Dreaming City.
Shadowkeep tried cramming the Pyramid, Nightmares, Vex invasion, and the Scarlet Keep. The whole Hive storyline was basically nonexistent, despite being the namesake of the DLC. The Pyramid plot has fizzled out until the next big Pyramid attack, and the Vex stuff I don't think was ever really expanded upon.
The point is, Bungie has the perfect model to start churning out satisfying stories that we can really get invested in, and I hope they'll be able to start using this seasonal model to its full potential soon.
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